James Macpherson

1736 - 1796


The Poems of Ossian












ADDRESS to the evening ſtar. Apoſtrophe to Fingal and his times. Minona ſings before the king the ſong of the unfortunate Colma; and the bards exhibit other ſpecimens of their poetical talents, according to an annual cuſtom eſtabliſhed by the monarchs of the ancient Caledonians.



STAR of deſcending: night! fair is thy light in the weſt! thou lifteſt thy unſhorn head from thy cloud: thy ſteps are ſtately on thy hill. What doſt thou behold in the plain? The ſtormy winds are laid. The murmur of the torrent comes from afar. Roaring waves climb the diſtant rock. The flies of evening are on their feeble wings; the hum of their courſe is on the field. What doſt thou behold, fair light? But thou doſt ſmile and depart. The waves come with joy around thee: they bathe thy lovely hair. Farewell, thou ſilent beam! Let the light of Oſſian's ſoul ariſe!

And it does ariſe in its ſtrength! I behold my departed friends. Their gathering is on Lora, as in the days of others years. Fingal comes like a watery column of miſt; his heroes are around. And ſee the bards of ſong, grey-haired Ullin! ſtately Ryno! Alpin, 1) with the tuneful voice! the ſoft complaint of Minona! How are ye changed, my friends, ſince the days of Selma's feaſt? when we contended, like gales of ſpring, as they fly along the hill, and bend by turns the feebly-whiſtling graſs.

Minona 2) came forth in her beauty; with down-caſt look and tearful eye. Her hair flew ſlowly on the blaſt, that ruſhed unfrequent from the hill. The ſouls of the heroes were ſad when ſhe raiſed the tuneful voice. Often had they ſeen the grave of Salgar, 3) the dark dwelling of white-boſomed Colma. 4) Colma left alone on the hill, with all her voice of ſong! Salgar promiſed to come: but the night deſcended around. Hear the voice of Colma, when ſhe ſat alone on the hill!



It is night; I am alone, forlorn on the hill of ſtorms. The wind is heard in the mountain. The torrent pours down the rock. No hut receives me from the rain, forlorn on the hill of winds.

Riſe, moon! from behind thy clouds. Stars of the night, ariſe! Lead me, ſome light, to the place where my love reſts from the chaſe alone! his bow near him, unſtrung: his dogs panting around him. But here I muſt ſit alone, by the rock of the moſſy ſtream. The ſtream and the wind roar aloud. I hear not the voice of my love! Why delays my Salgar, why the chief of the hill, his promiſe? Here is the rock, and here the tree! here is the roaring ſtream! Thou didſt promiſe with night to be here. Ah! whither is my Salgar gone? With thee I would fly, from my father; with thee, from my brother of pride. Our race have long been foes; we are not foes, O Salgar!

Ceaſe a little while, O wind! ſtream, be thou ſilent a while! let my voice be heard around. Let my wanderer hear me! Salgar! it is Colma who calls. Here is the tree, and the rock. Salgar, my love! I am here. Why delayeſt thou thy coming? Lo! the calm moon comes forth. The flood is bright in the vale. The rocks are grey on the ſteep. I ſee him not on the brow. His dogs come not before him, with tidings of his near approach. Here I muſt ſit alone!

Who lie on the heath beſide me? Are they my love and my brother? Speak to me, O my friends! To Colma they give no reply. Speak to me: I am alone! My ſoul is tormented with fears! Ah! they are dead! Their ſwords are red from the fight. O my brother! my brother! why haſt thou ſlain Salgar? why, O Salgar! haſt thou ſlain my brother? Dear were ye both to me! what ſhall I ſay in your praiſe? Thou wert fair on the hill among thouſands! he was terrible in fight. Speak to me; hear my voice; hear me, ſons of my love! They are ſilent; ſilent for ever! Cold, cold are their breaſts of clay! Oh! from the rock on the hill; from the top of the windy ſteep, ſpeak, ye ghoſts of the dead! ſpeak, I will not be afraid! Whither are ye gone to reſt? In what cave of the hill ſhall I find the departed? No feeble voice is on the gale; no anſwer half-drowned in the ſtorm!

I ſit to my grief! I wait for morning in my tears! Rear the tomb, ye friends of the dead. Cloſe it not till Colma come. My life flies away like a dream! why ſhould I ſtay behind? Here ſhall I reſt with my friends, by the ſtream of the ſounding rock. When night comes on the hill; when the loud winds ariſe; my ghoſt ſhall ſtead in the blaſt, and mourn the death of my friends. The hunter ſhall hear from his booth. He ſhall fear, but love my voice! For ſweet ſhall my voice be for my friends: pleaſant were her friends to Colma!

Such was thy ſong, Minona, ſoftly-bluſhing daughter of Torman. Our tears deſcended from Colma, and our ſouls were ſad! Ullin came with his harp; he gave the ſong of Alpin. The voice of Alpin was pleaſant; the ſoul of Ryno was a beam of fire! But they had reſted in the narrow houſe: their voice had ceaſed in Selma. Ullin had returned, one day, from the chaſe, before the heroes fell. He heard their ſtrife on the hill; their ſong was ſoft but ſad. They mourned the fall of Morar, firſt of mortal men! His ſoul was like the ſoul of Fingal; his ſword like the ſword of Oſcar. But he fell, and his father mourned: his ſiſter's eyes were full of tears. Minona's eyes were full of tears, the ſiſter of car-borne Morar. She retired from the ſong of Ullin, like the moon in the weſt, when ſhe foreſees the ſhower, and hides her fair head in a cloud. I touched the harp, with Ullin; the ſong of mourning roſe!



The wind and the rain are paſt: calm is the noon of day. The clouds are divided in heaven. Over the green hills flies the inconſtant ſun. Red through the ſtony vale comes down the ſtream of the hill. Sweet are thy murmurs, O ſtream! but more ſweet is the voice I hear. It is the voice of Alpin, the ſon of ſong, mourning for the dead! Bent is his head of age; red his tearful eye. Alpin, thou ſon of ſong, why alone on the ſilent hill? why complaineſt thou, as a blaſt in the wood; as a wave on the lonely ſhore?


My tears, O Ryno! are for the dead; my voice for thoſe that have paſſed away. Tall thou art on the hill; fair among the ſons of the vale. But thou ſhalt fall like Morar 5); the mourner ſhall ſit on thy tomb. The hills ſhall know thee no more; thy bow ſhall lie in thy hall unſtrung!

Thou wert ſwift, O Morar! as a roe on the deſert; terrible as a meteor of fire. Thy wrath was as the ſtorm. Thy ſword in battle, as lightning in the field. Thy voice was a ſtream after rain; like thunder on diſtant hills. Many fell by thy arm; they were conſumed in the flames of thy wrath. But when thou didſt return from war, how peaceful was thy brow! Thy face was like the ſun after rain; like the moon in the ſilence of night; calm as the breaſt of the lake when the loud wind is laid.

Narrow is thy dwelling now! dark the place of thine abode! With three ſteps I compaſs thy grave, O thou who waſt ſo great before! Four ſtones, with their heads of moſs, are the only memorial of thee. A tree with ſcarce a leaf, long graſs which whiſtles in the wind, mark to the hunter's eye the grave of the mighty Morar. Morar! thou art low indeed. Thou haſt no mother to mourn thee; no maid with her tears of love. Dead is ſhe that brought thee forth. Fallen is the daughter of Morglan.

Who on his ſtaff is this? who is this, whoſe head is white with age? whoſe eyes are red with tears? who quakes at every ſtep? It is thy father, 6) O Morar! the father of no ſon but thee. He heard of thy fame in war; he heard of foes diſperſed. He heard of Morar's renown; why did he not hear of his wound? Weep, thou father of Morar! weep; but thy ſon heareth thee not. Deep is the ſleep of the dead; low their pillow of duſt. No more ſhall he hear thy voice; no more awake at thy call. When ſhall it be morn in the grave, to bid the ſlumberer awake? Farewell, thou braveſt of men! thou conqueror in the field! but the field ſhall ſee thee no more; nor the dark wood be lightened with the ſplendour of thy ſteel. Thou has left no ſon. The ſong ſhall preſerve thy name. Future times ſhall hear of thee; they ſhall hear of the fallen Morar!

The grief of all aroſe, but moſt the burſting ſigh of Armin. 7) He remembers the death of his ſon, who fell in the days of his youth. Carmor 8) was near the hero, the chief of the echoing Galmal. Why burſts the ſigh of Armin? he ſaid. Is there a cauſe to mourn? The ſong comes, with its muſic, to melt and pleaſe the ſoul. It is like ſoft miſt, that, riſing from a lake, pours on the ſilent vale; the green flowers are filled with dew, but the ſun returns in his ſtrength, and the miſt is gone. Why art thou ſad, O Armin! chief of ſea-ſurrounded Gorma?

Sad I am! nor ſmall is my cauſe of woe! Carmor, thou haſt loſt no ſon; thou haſt loſt no daughter of beauty. Colgar the valiant lives; and Annira, faireſt maid. The boughs of thy houſe aſcend, O Carmor! but Armin is the laſt of his race. Dark is thy bed, O Daura! deep thy ſleep in the tomb! When ſhalt thou awake with thy ſongs? with all thy voice of muſic?

Ariſe, winds of autumn, ariſe; blow along the heath! ſtreams of the mountains roar! roar, tempeſts, in the groves of my oaks! walk through broken clouds, O moon! ſhow thy pale face, at intervals! bring to my mind the night, when all my children fell; when Arindal the mighty fell; when Daura the lovely failed! Daura, my daughter! thou wert fair; fair as the moon on Fura 9); white as the driven ſnow; ſweet as the breathing gale. Arindal, thy bow was ſtrong. Thy ſpear was ſwift in the field. Thy look was like miſt on the wave; thy ſhield, a red cloud in a ſtorm. Armar, renowned in war, came, and ſought Daura's love. He was not long refuſed: fair was the hope of their friends!

Erath, ſon of Odgal, repined: his brother had been ſlain by Armar. He came diſguiſed like a ſon of the ſea: fair was his ſkiff on the wave; white his locks of age; calm his ſerious brow. Faireſt of women, he ſaid, lovely daughter of Armin! a rock not diſtant in the ſea bears a tree on its ſide; red ſhines the fruit afar. There Armar waits for Daura. I come to carry his love! She went; ſhe called on Armar. Nought anſwered, but the ſon 10) of the rock, Armar, my love! my love! why tormenteſt thou me with fear? hear, ſon of Arnart, hear: it is Daura who calleth thee! Erath the traitor fled laughing to the land. She lifted up her voice; ſhe called for her brother and her father. Arindal! Armin! none to relieve your Daura!

Her voice came over the ſea. Arindal my ſon deſcended from the hill; rough in the ſpoils of the chaſe. His arrows rattled by his ſide; his bow was in his hand: five dark grey dogs attend his ſteps. He ſaw fierce Erath on the ſhore: he ſeized and bound him to an oak. Thick wind the thongs 11) of the hide around his limbs; he loads the wind with his groans. Arindal aſcends the deep in his boat, to bring Daura to land. Armar came in his wrath, and let fly the grey-feathered ſhaft. It ſung; it ſunk in thy heart, O Arindal, my ſon! for Erath the traitor thou diedſt. The oar is ſtopped at once; he panted on the rock and expired. What is thy grief, O Daura, when round thy feet is poured thy brother's blood! The boat is broken in twain. Armar plunges into the ſea, to reſcue his Duara, or die. Sudden a blaſt from the hill came over the waves. He ſank, and he roſe no more.

Alone, on the ſea-beat rock, my daughter was heard to complain. Frequent and loud were her cries. What could her father do? All night I ſtood on the ſhore. I ſaw her by the faint beam of the moon. All night I heard her cries. Loud was the wind; the rain beat hard on the hill. Before morning appeared her voice was weak. It died away, like the evening-breeze among the graſs of the rocks. Spent with grief ſhe expired; and left thee, Armin, alone. Gone is my ſtrength in war! fallen my pride among women! When the ſtorms aloft ariſe; when the north lifts the wave on high; I ſit by the ſounding ſhore, and look on the fatal rock. Often by the ſetting moon, I ſee the ghoſts of my children. Half viewleſs, they walk in mournful conference together. Will none of you ſpeak in pity? They do not regard their father. I am ſad, O Carmor, nor ſmall is my cauſe of woe!

Such were the words of the bards in the days of ſong; when the king heard the muſic of harps, the tales of other times! The chiefs gathered from all their hills, and heard the lovely ſound. They praiſed the voice 12) of Cona! the firſt among a thouſand bards! But age is now on my tongue; my ſoul has failed! I hear, at times, the ghoſts of bards, and learn their pleaſant ſong. But memory fails on my mind. I hear the call of years! They ſay, as they paſs along, why does Oſſian ſing? Soon ſhall he lie in the narrow houſe, and no bard ſhall raiſe his fame! Roll on, ye dark-brown years; ye bring no joy on your courſe! Let the tomb open to Oſſian, for his ſtrength has failed. The ſons of ſong are gone to reſt. My voice remains, like a blaſt, that roars, lonely, on a ſea-ſurrounded rock, after the winds are laid. The dark moſs whiſtles there; the diſtant mariner ſees the waving trees!





Alpin is from the ſame root with Albion, or rather Albin, the ancient name of Britain; Alp, high iſland, or country. The preſent name of our iſland has its origin in the Celtic tongue: ſo that thoſe who derived it from any other betrayed their ignorance of the ancient language of our country. Brait or Braid, extenſive; and in, land. 


Oſſian introduces Minona, not in the ideal ſcene in his own mind which he had deſcribed, but at the annual feaſt of Selma, where the bards repeated their works before Fingal. 


Sealg-'er, a hunter. 


Culmath, a woman with fine hair. 


Mór-ér, great man. 


Torman the ſon of Carthul, lord of I-mora, one of the weſtern iſles. 


Armin, a hero. He was chief or pretty king of Gorma – i.e. the blue iſland, ſuppoſed to be one of the Hebrides. 


Cear-mór, a tall dark-complexioned man. 


Fuar-a, cold iſland. 


By the ſon of the rock the poet means the echoing back of the human voice from a rock. The vulgar were of opinion that this repetition of ſound was made by a ſpirit within the rock; and they on that account called it mac talla, the ſon who dwells in the rock. 


The poet here only means that Erath was bound with leathern thongs. 


Oſſian is ſometimes poetically called the voice of Cona.